10 Awesome Mac Features You Can Get on Your Windows PC
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I’ve been a Mac user for a long time — the last version of Windows I owned was XP. But I recently built up a gaming PC How To Build Your Own PC How To Build Your Own PC It's very gratifying to build your own PC; as well as intimidating. But the process itself is actually quite simple. We'll walk you through everything you need to know. Read More , and the easy choice for the operating system (OS) was Windows 10. Coming back to Microsoft’s OS after many years of Mac-only existence was a little weird, and I found that I missed some surprising little things from macOS.

Here are 10 features that I missed, and, where I could, how I got them back.

1. En- and Em-Dash

For me this is a big one. As a writer and editor, I use both dashes on a regular basis. And just being able to hit Option + – or Option + Shift + – to get them was extremely convenient. Unfortunately, Windows has no native way of inserting these dashes. If you don’t use them very often, you can copy and paste them from somewhere. Or you can rely on your software to insert them for you, but most software isn’t very good at this.

The best way to get around this problem is to use AutoHotKey (AHK). With this app, you can bind specific keystrokes to specific actions. In this case, I used the following code:

!-::–
	return

+!-::—
	return

Now, when I press Alt + –, I get an en-dash, and when I press Alt + Shift + –, I get an em-dash. On a related note, AutoHotKey is insanely useful — you should definitely be using it to power up your computer 10+ Cool AutoHotkey Scripts & How to Make Your Own 10+ Cool AutoHotkey Scripts & How to Make Your Own AutoHotkey is an easy way to add shortcuts to your computer. You can download ready-to-use scripts or write your own. We show you to become more productive with automated hotkey tasks. Read More .

2. Enter to Rename

I rename files a lot. When I’m working on an article, it’s not a stretch to guess that I could rename up to 15 different files over a short period of time. And so just being able to hit Enter on my Mac to rename a file was great. My finger is already near the key and it’s easy to hit it. In Windows, pressing Enter opens the file. Not helpful.

The best solution? Learn the Windows keyboard shortcuts Windows Shortcuts 101: The Ultimate Keyboard Shortcut Guide Windows Shortcuts 101: The Ultimate Keyboard Shortcut Guide With so many shortcuts built into Windows and its software, it might seem impossible to learn them all. Here's the ultimate guide to the most useful keyboard shortcuts. Read More . Once you’ve selected a file, hit F2 to rename it. It’s also possible to use AHK to make any press of Enter while you’re in Windows Explorer to trigger an F2 press, but this seems like more hassle than it’s worth.

3. Command Key Placement

I realize that this is likely just being used to where they keys are. But I grew to really like the placement of the Command key. I could hit it with my thumb, and easily reach to ALCVT, and the other keys I often used it with. These shortcuts are accessed with the Control key on a PC, which I hit with my last finger instead of my thumb.

Again, it’s probably just because I’m used to the Mac keyboard layout. But it feels really weird, and like it isn’t quite as ergonomic. Possibly because my smallest finger is weaker than my thumb. AutoHotKey comes to the rescue again, enabling me to change the Control and Alt keys on my PC keyboard. I can even change the keycaps on my keyboard so I remember.

Here’s the script:

LCtrl::LAlt
	return

LAlt::LCtrl
	return

This messes with the traditional Alt + Tab window switcher in Windows, but fixing it in AHK is rather complicated.

4. Fast File Exploration

In Finder, every time you open a folder, the contents are displayed immediately. On a PC, it can take a few seconds. I found this most notable when opening folders to upload images to WordPress. On my Mac, it would take a couple seconds. On the PC, it was closer to 10–15 seconds total. It’s not much, but it was notable.

Turns out Windows optimizes folders for specific types of files, and that optimization can lead to a slow-down when you’re opening them. To get rid of this, right-click on any file, then go to Properties > Customize. Choose General Items instead of whatever option is currently selected, and the load speed will improve.

10 Awesome Mac Features You Can Get on Your Windows PC optimized folder

5. Screenshot Shortcuts

My job requires that I take a lot of screenshots, so being able to hit Command + Shift + 4 or Command + Shift + 5 was a huge help. No need to open a program — just hit the screenshot shortcut How To Take Screenshots On Your Mac: Tips & Tools How To Take Screenshots On Your Mac: Tips & Tools There are many ways to take screenshots with OS X, using both built-in and third-party tools — each with its advantages and disadvantages. Here's everything you need to know. Read More , select what I want, and the file gets saved to the desktop. Couldn’t be easier. Windows’ Snipping Tool is useful, but it still takes a few extra seconds to get it activated.

Many screenshot tools will give you the option of a hotkey for taking a screenshot. I downloaded Lightshot and set Alt + Shift + 4 to take a selection screenshot and Alt + Shift + 5 to capture the whole screen. Much better. (In fact, some of the features are even better than the Mac tool.)

10 Awesome Mac Features You Can Get on Your Windows PC lightshot settings e1487549389170

6. Messages

Because I have an iPhone, I use the Messages apps a lot. Being able to text to anyone else with an iPhone directly from my Mac was awesome. But there’s no way to do that from a PC. And as far as I can tell, there’s no good solution, either. I’ve heard of emulating an iPad and using the Messages apps from the desktop, but that seems like overkill.

The best option, if you really need this functionality, is to use a different desktop messaging app WhatsApp Desktop Client for Windows & Mac Is Only Second Best WhatsApp Desktop Client for Windows & Mac Is Only Second Best WhatsApp finally released an official desktop client for Windows and Mac. Notifications and keyboard shortcuts aside, it's identical to WhatsApp Web for your browser. We show you how it works and better alternatives. Read More . Hangouts, WhatsApp, Skype, and other options will work from the Windows desktop. It’s not as nice as using Messages, but there’s just no fix for this one.

7. Notes

Similarly, I use the Notes app on my iPhone a lot. I use it to keep track of board game scores, take notes on things I see, draft documents, and all sorts of other journalistic and personal uses. The ability to access and edit those notes and have them instantly synced between my Mac and my phone was priceless.

10 Awesome Mac Features You Can Get on Your Windows PC icloud browser e1487549505416

The best way I’ve found to do this on my PC is to access Notes via iCloud in a browser. (Go to icloud.com, sign in with your Apple ID, and launch Notes.) It’s not as good as having a separate app, but it’s close. The browser-based version provides the same functionality as the desktop app.

Alternatively, you could switch to Evernote or OneNote Evernote vs. OneNote: Which Note-Taking App Is Right for You? Evernote vs. OneNote: Which Note-Taking App Is Right for You? Evernote and OneNote are amazing note-taking apps. It's hard to pick between the two. We compared everything from interface to note organization to help you choose. What works best for you? Read More for your cross-platform note-taking needs.

8. Spotlight

Although it’s often neglected, Spotlight is one of the Mac’s best features Search More Efficiently In Mac OS X With Our Top Spotlight Tips Search More Efficiently In Mac OS X With Our Top Spotlight Tips Spotlight has been a killer Mac feature for years, with Cupertino regularly schooling Redmond in the art of desktop search. Here are a few tips to help you find more on your Mac. Read More . Not only does it let you search almost everything on your computer, but it’s also a calculator, weather app, unit converter, and more. I use it all the time on my Mac, and I’ve come to appreciate it even more since switching to Windows.

On Windows 10, Cortana serves a similar function. By hitting Win + Q (which isn’t nearly as ergonomic as Command + Space), you can pull up the bar and search for things on your computer or the Windows App Store. You can also do calculations and get weather information, but none of it is quite as slick as Spotlight.

10 Awesome Mac Features You Can Get on Your Windows PC cortana

There are some launcher apps that replicate the file-finding and file-opening power of Spotlight (like Launchy and Wox), but Cortana’s close enough for me.

9. Automator

Unjustly neglected, Automator is a hugely powerful tool 10 Automator Apps You Can Create in Under 5 Minutes [Mac] 10 Automator Apps You Can Create in Under 5 Minutes [Mac] Read More in any Mac user’s arsenal. I used it to create a shortcut so that I could right-click on any image file, select an option, and have that image instantly scaled to 670 pixels wide and converted to PNG. I used it all the time, and it saved a huge amount of time over opening the file with Pixelmator, resizing, and exporting it.

For my purposes, Image Resizer is a great replacement. It lets me right-click on an image and select the size I want to scale it to. It’s not quite as fast as the Automator setup I had, but it’s pretty close. It also doesn’t change the format, but I can likely find another solution for that.

10 Awesome Mac Features You Can Get on Your Windows PC image resizer prompt

10. Quicktime Screen Recording

Using Quicktime to record everything on my screen The 5 Best Screen Recorders for Capturing Mac OS X The 5 Best Screen Recorders for Capturing Mac OS X From Apple's QuickTime to the widely used ScreenFlow, screen recorders are useful for teaching and training purposes, communicating computer problems, and making presentations. Read More was useful a few times for creating demo videos. But it could also record what was happening on the screen of my iPad, a feature that many Mac users might not know about. When you’re in the tech tips business, this is a hugely useful feature.

The Windows 10 Xbox app can be used to record the screen — just hit Win + G to launch the Game Bar Windows 10 Is for Gamers: 6 Features You Will Love Windows 10 Is for Gamers: 6 Features You Will Love You will want to use Windows 10 for gaming! Whether it's streaming your Xbox One games to your PC, using the Xbox app, or enjoying high performance gaming with DirectX 12, Windows 10 enhances your... Read More and start recording. Recording my iPad screen is a bit more difficult, but X-Mirage lets me turn my PC into an AirPlay server. Using that, I can mirror my iOS device screens right on my screen. And X-Mirage has built-in recording capability. Not quite as slick as QuickTime, but it works.

10 Awesome Mac Features You Can Get on Your Windows PC windows 10 game bar

Converting to Windows

Moving from one OS to another is never easy. You’ll always miss familiar features 4 Things About Windows That You'll Miss On A Mac 4 Things About Windows That You'll Miss On A Mac Thinking about switching over to a Mac? It's easy to find faults with Windows. But are you aware of the things you'll miss? Read More or frequently used software The Best Windows Software The Best Windows Software Windows is swimming in a sea of free applications. Which ones can you trust and which ones are the best? If you're unsure or need to solve a specific task, consult this list. Read More .

What are your favorite features on Mac? Have you been able to replicate them in Windows? Share the features you want and your best tips for getting them in the comments below!

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  1. Grant
    October 26, 2017 at 10:05 am

    For screenshots, you can use the Win + PrintScreen key. It will save the screenshots to the Pictures/Screenshots folder.
    Use PrintScreen directly will copy the screenshot to Clipboard.
    If you want to edit, I think Windows Ink Workspace on the taskbar can help you.

  2. Jesse
    October 21, 2017 at 5:02 am

    For Notes, I use Google Keep. It syncs beautifully from my PC to iPhone and vice-versa. There’s a nice Chrome extension for it too.

  3. Aman Aslam
    June 24, 2017 at 12:45 pm

    none of the above methods worked properly and my USB is still write protected.

  4. Phil N
    June 17, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    I'm confused. On Windows you just click a file twice to rename it. Seems easier than any key combinations.

    • Jay
      October 21, 2017 at 3:11 pm

      As a former writer, both of my hand usually sits on top of keyboard, so I prefer keyboard shortcut. Reaching out to a mouse or touch pad waste couple seconds (plus you need to rearrange your hand on top of the keyboard).

      And actually, I skip Windows Explorer and use orthodox file manager (like multi commander) which has many shortcut to navigate and managing files/folders

  5. Kyle
    March 11, 2017 at 3:13 am

    I would dearly love the space bar in Finder opening a preview of the file.

    • Dann Albright
      March 19, 2017 at 1:31 am

      Evidently Seer lets you do this: http://1218.io/ I haven't tried it yet, but it looks like a great way to add that functionality to Windows!

  6. Doc
    March 9, 2017 at 5:56 pm

    "Unfortunately, Windows has no native way of inserting these dashes. " Um, wrong. ALT+150 for en dash, and ALT+151 for em dash (use the number keys on the keypad, not the top row). This has been there since the Windows 3.x days...and Character Map will not only tell you every ALT-key combination you could ever want, including accented characters, the "euro" and "cents" keys, et al.
    So sorry you are having trouble with Windows...I know it's hard at first to get along without the Mac "training wheels." :)

    • SpoonmanWoS
      March 10, 2017 at 4:08 pm

      It predates WINDOWS 3.x, I've been using those since DOS 3.x (and earlier). :)

      • Doc
        March 10, 2017 at 8:50 pm

        Yes, but the ALT+number key codes for DOS aren't the same as those for Windows.

    • Dann Albright
      March 19, 2017 at 1:30 am

      You made my point for me: "use with the number keys on the keypad, not the top row." I don't have a numeric keypad. Maybe that's a "Mac training wheel"? But I'm sure I'm not the only one. So AHK is still the best way to go.

      • Doc
        March 19, 2017 at 10:50 pm

        Not my fault - or Microsoft's - that you don't have a number pad. Blame Apple.

        • Dann Albright
          March 29, 2017 at 3:37 pm

          Not sure what you read in that comment that makes you think I'm blaming your or Microsoft for my not having a number pad. I'm not blaming anyone—I prefer not having a number pad. Which is exactly why it's nice to be able to quickly type dashes on ANY keyboard, instead of only specific keyboards. That's unnecessarily limiting.

  7. Dave
    March 9, 2017 at 3:24 pm

    You don't need any extra software to capture screen shots,

    Just press Windows key + Print screen key together and a screen shot of the whole desktop will be saved to Pictures/Screenshot

    • Doc
      March 9, 2017 at 6:09 pm

      Yes, or pressing the "Print Screen" by itself will save a copy of the screen in the Clipboard, which can be pasted into GIMP or MS Paint.

      • Phil N
        June 17, 2017 at 12:17 pm

        The Snipping Tool allows more advanced screenshots. Selected areas, saving, etc. It's been in there since Vista.

    • Tina Sieber
      March 11, 2017 at 8:57 am

      That keyboard shortcut is good to know. It's not very convenient though because it just captures the entire screen. It doesn't give you options to select what you want to capture, nor does it allow you to edit the screenshot further.

    • Dann Albright
      March 19, 2017 at 1:28 am

      That's true; but as Tina mentioned, it captures the whole screen, while the Mac screenshot shortcut makes it easy to capture just a part of the screen, which saves a step in editing.

  8. Jon
    March 8, 2017 at 6:19 pm

    For sending text messages from my computer, I installed PushBullet, which I also have on my phone. Using it, I can write SMSs on my computer, and my phone sends them. i can also do a lot of other things between computers and phones and tablets (yeah, all of them together.) I suggest it as an "alternative" to Messages (I supplement it with Facebook Messenger)

    • Kyle
      March 11, 2017 at 3:14 am

      Air Droid works fantastic for Android phones.

    • Dann Albright
      March 19, 2017 at 1:26 am

      Ah, that's a good idea! I'll have to check that out. Do you know if it'll send an iPhone-specific message via Messages? Or will it only send SMS?

      • Jon
        March 19, 2017 at 9:03 am

        It only does SMS that I'm aware of. I also don't know how well it works with the iPhone. I started using it because I switched to Android, and lost my iMessages ability. :-)